It’s the word on every manager’s mind come August.
Get ten games over .500, win 3 outta’ 4 series and start building a lead. Reach your benchmarks and the competition won’t even matter. You’ll get separation.
First year Brewers’ Manager Ron Roenicke is getting some divisional disconnect this week after going head-to-head with the only other contender in the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals. It marks the first time this season either team has made a move.
The real brew-masters look for separation, too.
In a later brewing stage called lautering, the wort (liquid w/sugar) is separated from the starch source (often a cereal (grain) like barley) and then boiled to sterilize the brew.
Anyone who’s taken a brewery tour has seen it firsthand. I got my look-see back in the 70s.
Every year our parish school and Father Marty treated us alter boys to a day trip in the big city. The itinerary: a Milwaukee Brewers game, tour of Schlitz and a stop at McDonalds.
Three memories stick: 1) The brewery aroma: not bad, not good, just…malty; 2) Saw Hank Aaron, Robin Yount and got a glimpse of Angel Nolan Ryan warming-up; and 3) The 8th-grader who became a school-yard legend for wolfing down four Big Macs in a single sitting (I smell a contest, Prince Fielder!).
Central stalwarts St. Louis and Milwaukee needn’t expect any serious challenge from the rest of the bunch. Intra-division play is competitive but it’s looking now like the third contender was more of a Pittsburgh pretender. Maybe next year, Pirates.
The team many expected to contend, the Cincinnati Reds, haven’t made noise all season. Canadian native and last years NL MVP Joey Votto is having another fine year (.322 / 17 / 69) but besides swift Drew Stubbs (74 R / 27 SB) and Jay Bruce (21 HR / 63) is getting little battery support. With pedestrian pitching and hobbled veterans Renteria and Rolen looking spent, Manager Dusty Baker has been left wondering what might‘ve been.
That leaves the Cubs and Astros. Players for post-season participation the past decade, both have tightened the purse strings and are laying low…real low. Not so unexpected in Chicago with new ownership and big contracts still weighing on the books.
The feeling around baseball is that Milwaukee has a special brew cooking this year. Not yet of the ‘82 vintage, still, a hearty draft equal to the Cardinal challenge. Trouble spots: emergence of a solid 4th starter, spotty RBI-production beyond stars Ryan Braun & Fielder and a DL’d Rickie Weeks whose high run total provided scoring balance (71).
Lucky for Suds City the Redbird rotation lacks the intimidation of years past. More of a concern for La Russa is the lack of consistency from his big three: Pujols, Holliday and Berkman, arguably the best 1-2-3 punch in all of baseball when healthy.
While Comeback candidate Berkman has carried the Cards with power, all three sluggers are below their career averages. It’s difficult to get much up-tick in BA this time of the season. But if bat coach Mark “Big Mac” McGwire can stop the drop and get stabilization, watch out Milwaukee.
Sense of urgency & youthful exuberance give an edge to the Brew Crew. But never count out a Tony La Russa team. Like that great St. Louis philosopher once quipped: It ain’t over, ‘til it’s over (Berra). Hold on to your hats ‘cause this one’s going down to the wire.
About the Author
Written by Steven Keys
A native of the old Northwest Territory (IL), my wife and I have lived in four Midwestern states and Arizona. Today we live in Duluth, Georgia. I have a history / legal background.